Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Unlawful Presence Update: Provisional Waiver Draft Regulations Released

In the past two weeks, DHS has finally put the pedal to the medal in releasing much anticipated draft regulations on the proposed provisional waiver program. If it gets enacted, the provisional waiver program would allow those with approved Immigrant Visas who have a US citizen spouse or parent who would suffer extreme hardship if the immigrant was not allowed to come back to the US in the next 3 or 10 years (depending on which bar was triggered), to apply for their waivers in the US before ever departing to their consular interview abroad. This would save bucket loads of time waiting abroad for a decision by the CIS office attached to the consulate, which could take more than 6 months in many locations and even more in Mexico. The provisional waiver process would allow the immigrant to wait in the US while the waiver is being decided and then once it's approved, then travel to the consulate interview. This would result in only a few weeks at most of a separation from their loved ones in the US.

Well, there are a few catches. The new draft regulations make clear that:

(1) There are no do-overs. If your case is not approved through the provisional waiver program the first time, you don't get a second shot at it. You would have to travel abroad, as under current procedure, and file for a waiver abroad and await the decision.

(2) There are no appeals to denials and no motions to reopen. Only CIS can issue an MTR on its own to reopen a case, which is not likely.

(3) As expected, permanent resident spouses and parents may not be used as qualifying relatives for purposes of the provisional waiver process; if your relative is one of these, you will have to go through the standard waiver processing that currently exists abroad;

(4) If you have an adjustment of status case pending, you can't apply under the provisional waiver program.

(5) A Big Problem -  If you have already paid your NVC fees and NVC has booked your consulate interview (but you haven't left the US yet because you were waiting for the PW program), you cannot stop now and postpone your interview in hopes to be able to use this process. If you have a consulate interview that has been scheduled, even if you postponed or missed it, you won't be able to file under the provisional waiver program.

The draft regulations are open for comment for 60 days before they become final and any changes are incorporated.  Let me know your thoughts or any concerns you read about in the regs and we'll try to get your voice heard.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Understanding Limits to the Fiance Visa

The fiancé visa, k-1, may be a tempting option to immigrate a girlfriend to the US as it seems to be the most straight forward and legal way to test out a relationship without committing to a marriage immigrant visa process and longer processing times. There are recurring problems with k-1s that many forget:

The k-1 only allots 3 month visa, not a green card. If you change your mind and don't want to marry, the k-1 visa holder can't change status to another visa, cannot extend their stay, and cannot adjust status (apply for a green card based on a different sponsoring spouse or based on a different family member or employer). Even if the k-1 later marries another US citizen, the k-1 will have to travel abroad to interview at the consulate abroad. This can many times lead to the ten year bar and the extensive waiver process because of unlawful presence.

The k-1 may be a little faster than an immigrant visa based on marriage but the downside is that the K-1 does not allow the immigrant fiance to enter the US with a green card. Marrying and going through the immigrant visa route and consular processing based on that and not the fiance visa route, would allow the immigrant to come into the US with a green card already, not a temporary visa. The trade off is the longer processing time, usually as little as an additional 3-4 month wait. If the fiance entered on a k-1, the immigrant fiance would have to go through adjustment of status process once they marry in the US to obtain their green card, which costs more in filing fees and takes longer for the immigrant to receive a green card and requires the couple to interview for the case.  There are pros and cons to filing as married or as engaged. Timing, money, and immigration history can have a major play in the right decision for your case.